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Image for Mike Yarwood: So This Is Him!

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Boxing Day 2012 21:00 BBC Radio 2

Duration:
57 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 26 December 2012

Rory Bremner looks at the life and career of his hero Mike Yarwood - Britain's first "top of the bill" impressionist and the man other mimics call "the Governor".

Mike's remarkable attention to detail through voices, facial characteristics and body language made him hugely popular with viewers (and even with most of his subjects). He was one of the biggest stars of the 1970s and set the standard for impressionists who followed him.

It was Yarwood's willingness to tackle politicians as well as entertainers that made his act stand out from the rest. He created catchphrases which became identified with famous figures, even though they never actually used them, such as "silly Billy" for Dennis Healey and "I mean that most sincerely, folks" for Hughie Green. Other prominent British personalities that he portrayed included Eddie Waring, Brian Clough, Robin Day, Magnus Pyke, Alf Garnett, Frank Spencer, Harold Wilson and, of course, The Prince of Wales!

As well as the quality of his impressions, what stood out about Yarwood was the quality of his material. As we hear via the archives, the impersonation was only really half the story and Yarwood would complete the picture by being a consummate comedy performer with top drawer material up his sleeve every time.

This hour long tribute covers Yarwood's rise to the top of the showbiz tree and his subsequent decline (when in the 80s the rise of alternative comedy meant that Yarwood's gentle lampooning of establishment figures began to look out of date).

Among those popping up in praise of Mike are: Jon Culshaw, Les Dennis, Spitting Image's Steve Nallon, Mike's agent Laurie Mansfield and his early mentor Royston Mayoh. Oh, and we'll be hearing from the man himself too!

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